Date of Award

Fall 12-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Curriculum & Instruction


Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Barnitz, John

Second Advisor

Austin, Patricia

Third Advisor

Bedford, April

Fourth Advisor

Speaker, Richard


For teachers of freshman English composition, the most time-consuming aspect of teaching is responding to student papers (Anson, 2012; Straub, 2000b). Teachers respond in various ways, but most teachers agree that they should offer written feedback to students (Beach & Friedrich, 2006). However, little research has been conducted to determine how teachers’ written feedback practices reflect their beliefs about the purpose of such feedback. This qualitative study explores the relationship between English composition teachers’ beliefs about written feedback and their actual written feedback practices.

The participants were a sample of four instructors of freshman English composition at a mid-sized metropolitan public university. Interviews, classroom observations, course documents, and samples of teachers’ written comments were analyzed to determine teachers’ written response practices and their beliefs related to the purposes of freshman writing and their roles as writing teachers. Results suggest that teachers were aware of their beliefs, and their written response practices were consistent with their beliefs. Teachers utilized different approaches to respond to student writing, but those approaches are consistent with current recommendations for responding to student writing.

Three major themes emerged from the study. First, teachers must be given the opportunity to reflect about and articulate their beliefs about written response so they will know why they respond in the way they do. Second, teachers work within the boundaries of their specific writing program to organize their written responses to student writing. Third, teachers must respond to student writing from varying perspectives as readers of the text. The findings support studies which indicate that written response is a sociocultural practice and teacher beliefs are just one aspect of the complex nature of teacher written response. The study should add to the fields of response theory and the formation of teacher beliefs.


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